is my youth stopping me from getting a job, do I have to make small talk, and more

It’s seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Should my cover letter mention that I got my masters at age 20?

I know that in general, you’re not supposed to indicate your age, marital status, religion, race, etc. on job application materials. My question is, what if you’ve accomplished a lot at a really young age and want to show that off? I graduated with my B.S. at age 18 and then with my M.S. at age 20 from a well-respected university. Whenever I talk to my friends or family about my frustrating job search, their responses are always, “Of course someone is going to hire you! Look how smart you are! You’re 20 with an M.S.!”

I’m wondering if employers would have the same reaction if I mentioned in my cover letter how motivated I am and pointed to my age and achievements as proof. I think that including my age also sheds light on why I have such an extensive education with so little work experience. What are your thoughts?

Sure, I think you can do that. Don’t put too much emphasis on it or you risk looking like you over-value it, but you could definitely mention it in passing in your cover letter.

2. Should I mention in my cover letter that I know and admire the hiring manager?

I was going to apply for this job regardless, but I was looking at the website and realized one of the directors this job reports to is this wonderful woman I worked with a bit at my current job. We were not in the same department and I didn’t report to her, but I helped on certain projects and took an employer-sponsored week-long intensive class she was in. And she’s so personable and nice, I think everyone enjoys working with her.

I guess my question is, do I mention that I know her in the cover letter? How can I do it without being weird and getting all gooey about how nice it would be to work with her? I’ve interviewed with this company before, and I once emailed a different hiring manager to ask about my application a few weeks post-interview and she sent my email right away to HR. So I think this company really doesn’t like it when you reach out to the hiring managers. And the HR director is nice, I’ve met with her several times, so I just want to play it cool, not step on any toes. But if possible, is there someway be like “The director is awesome! I’d love to work for her!”

I also don’t have the director’s personal email address (I could figure it out but again, the idea is not to come on too weird), though we are connected on LinkedIn. So I’m thinking I shouldn’t contact her outright, especially if I’m not 100% what she’s looking for. I don’t want to make things awkward for her. But I am going to apply because I obviously think I’m qualified. Does it hurt or help me with HR that I’ve worked with this woman and look up to her?

The fact that you’ve worked with her doesn’t help you on its own, but it could help you if she says good things about you. And frankly, I think you’re being overly cautious about not wanting to reach out to her. You know this woman. You worked with her. In most cases, it would be odd to apply for a job and not tell someone you know there that you did. So apply, but then email her and let her know that you did (forwarding your resume and cover letter to her in that email as well). This is normal, people do it all the time, and it’s not going to be weird to contact her, even if you’re not quite what she’s looking for.

In addition, it’s completely fine to mention in your cover letter something like, “I worked with Jane Smith at ABC Company, admired her accomplishments there, and would be thrilled to work with her again,” but I wouldn’t get into any gushing, since the gushing really isn’t about your candidacy.

3. How can I stop my youth from getting in the way of getting a job?

I started working full-time at the very young age of 15. When I was 16, I obtained my GED and started taking college classes at my local community college. I am 18 now and I have been trying to get better jobs in a more professional setting than jobs that are hiring teenagers in high school. I have always worn professional clothing such as dress pants, shirt, and blazer. My make-up has always been natural looking in neutral shades. I have always been a hard worker who is upbeat and punctual. However, I do look really young and that hinders my chances of being taken seriously.

I am still a student in college, and I have found some part-time jobs that have the perfect hours and pay for me. I have a few interviews set up, but I am afraid that as soon as they look at me, they will decide I’m too young. Most of them are customer service rep jobs and I have all the qualifications for them, but I need to be able to make a good enough impression where my age won’t stop me from getting the job. Do you have any tips?

If you’re covered on the professional appearance front, the other thing to focus on is demonstrating maturity in other ways: Be polite, responsive, warm, thoughtful, and show good judgment. Send well-written emails in complete sentences, not text speak. Do all the stuff that parents usually hassle teenagers to do: Shake people’s hands and look them directly in the eye, sit up straight, and look attentive. Make sure any online presence you have is scrubbed clean of anything that screams “teenager.”

All of this is going to counteract any worries that you’re too young — because “too young” in a job hunting context usually means “too immature.” So show that’s not the case, and you should be okay.

4. Chatty coworkers, part 1

Do you have any advice for how to get talkative coworkers to leave you alone at work? I have a coworker (same position as me) that frequently talks to me about non-work things while I am trying to work, sometimes for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day. I’ve tried saying that I can’t focus while she’s talking to me and that it makes me nervous when she stands over me while I work, but it doesn’t really change anything. She might pause for a moment but keep standing there, or back away slightly without leaving. She always leaves eventually, of course, but on her own timeframe.

I have been basically ignoring her while she talks, not making eye contact, and only responding to direct questions with yes, no, or a noncommittal “hmm.” My coworker also follows me if I move to a different work area while she’s talking. I’m concerned that my manager will see this as “two employees talking to each other all day” and not realize that I’m barely talking…only the coworker is. Headphones aren’t an option in my workplace, and I don’t know what else I can do to get this coworker to leave me alone without being rude.

I have lots of advice here and here and here, but it’s all going to come down to you needing to be more assertive — and not worrying about being “rude” if she forces you to do that by ignoring your polite requests. You need to clearly say to her, I cannot talk right now. I have to focus on work.” If she continues talking, repeat it. If she still continues talking, then say, “Jane, I mean what I said. I need you to leave now so that I can work.”

If that doesn’t work, this woman is more than a garden-variety chatter — ignoring repeated requests to leave isn’t normal. In that case, then you go to your boss and say, “I’ve asked Jane repeatedly to stop talking to me about non-work things while I’m working, but even when I clearly request it multiple times in a row, she continues talking. Can you advise me on how to handle this?”

5. Chatty coworkers, part 2

In my female-dominated work environment (higher education), it is exceedingly polite, somewhat conservative, and intricately political. Frequently, colleagues–none of whom I manage–either initiate small talk with me while waiting for items at the printer, or hang around a little too long after making a work-related request to chit-chat (or ramble about her opinion of the project’s/client’s/method’s merits). It annoys me tremendously. When I’m working, I have no patience for small talk. During break times, I have no problem entertaining small talk or listening to someone ramble. My question is twofold: in a culture where it is customary to engage in frequent, short, casual conversation, would it be bad politics to shut down the distraction? And if this isn’t a bad a move, in your opinion, how do I politely say, “That’s nice, but I’m busy”? Or should I resign to keeping my office door shut most of the time?

It annoys me when people talk to me when I’m working too, but a small amount of this is part of the package when you work with all people. If you have a zero tolerance policy, you’ll come across as aloof and even rude, and it will probably impact your relationships with others there. That’s true in any workplace culture, but it’s especially true in one where these short casual conversations are the norm. You can certainly wrap it up after a minute or two (see the advice here on doing that), and you can signal that you’re deeply focused on something when someone is near (try looking utterly engrossed with your computer screen and taking a few extra beats to “hear” that someone has spoken to you), but you’d probably be doing yourself a disservice by excusing yourself entirely from this kind of thing.

6. Can a company I temped for hire me as a permanent employee without buying out my contract?

If my temp agency pulls me from an assignment, on their own, without the client company asking to end the assignment, can that client company hire me on as a permanent employee, without buying out my contract with the temp agency?

It depends on what the company’s contract with the temp company says. They’d probably have to pay a fee to the temp company, but that’s something they’re more likely to know than you.

7. Milwaukee is blocking pay raises for employees who move out of the city

I was talking about this story with a guy at the gym yesterday. I was pretty sure that this couldn’t possibly be legal — to block pay raises for city of Milwaukee employees who move out of the city (the city council is ticked off that the state government has invalidated the residency requirement for city employees, while completely overlooking the issue of why don’t people want to live in the city of Milwaukee) — but then I realized that where you live is not a protected class. I would love the opinions of some of the lawyer readers of AAM.

Yeah, I can’t think of why it wouldn’t be legal, just like residency requirements are legal, although we’d need a lawyer to say for sure. I’ve never understood why cities think it’s a good idea to impose residency requirements for their jobs though; you’d think they’d want the absolute best employees possible, and that means drawing from as wide a pool as possible. I highly doubt city residents would prefer slightly less competent city employees just because they happen to be city residents.

{ 205 comments… read them below }

  1. Windchime*

    Arrrggh, chatty co-workers are the most frustrating thing ever. At my workplace, they aren’t chatting to me but it’s still distracting because they just yak, yak, yak all day long. It’s apparent to me that at least two of them really only have enough work to be part-time because of the amount of chatting they do.

    As difficult as it is, I think that being direct with the person who is trying to chat with you is the best way to go. I usually say, “Well, I need to get back to this , catch ya later!” in a friendly voice and then turn around and start working. That works fine; what I haven’t done is find a good way to deal with the people who stand around and chat and laugh all day while the rest of us are trying to work.

    1. ChristineSW*

      I don’t mind the chatting if it’s kept to a tolerable volume, but when they start laughing and carrying on incessantly, it drives me bananas!

      1. Windchime*

        That’s the kind of chatting I’m talking about. Not quiet conversation over at the side of the room, but loud “stage whispering” punctuated by lots of loud giggling and laughing. On and on and on. For hours.

  2. bob*

    “female-dominated work environment”
    not relevant. why bother including it?

    “in my blue-eyed-dominated work environment” makes just about as much sense here.

      1. jesicka309*

        But usually it’s in context, where the OP is having issues that are to do with the uneven gender spread EG. OP is a female in a male dominated office and they expect her to make the coffees and clean up the conference room when it’s not her job, but don’t make the men do it.

        Because we usually only see gender brought up if it’s the issue, it’s making me think the OP is indirectly trying to associate the problem and the gender split in their office, which is not cool.

    1. BCW*

      I might ruffle some feathers here, but I think it may be relevant. I’ve worked in education (mostly women) and business (mostly men, at least my offices). There does seem to be A LOT more small talk among women.

      I think in general (of course not for ALL situations) women do chit chat more. Its like a thing I read once, how 2 guy friends can sit in complete silence watching tv or something, but if I’m watching with my girlfriend, the silence never happens. And its kind of true.

      Just because something is a stereotype or generalization, doesn’t mean there is no truth to it.

      1. Del*

        I don’t see how it is, though. A chatty environment is a chatty environment. (And FWIW, my office is quite evenly divided on gender, and it’s the male team members who are often the chattiest. I’m female, and I’m one of the least talkative people in the department.)

        1. BCW*

          Thats fine. We have had different experiences. I’m telling you what MY experience has been. Just because your current situation isn’t the same, doesn’t mean for me it has been any less true. I’m a guy and one of the more chatty people in my office. However, on the whole, the women in my office are more chatty, even though there are less of them.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              BCW isn’t presenting it as data; he’s presenting his experience, as we all do. There’s certainly no rule here that opinions can only be shared if you have data to back them up.

          1. Meg*

            Yes, but your experience doesn’t speak to some overarching Truth About Women. It just means that in your particular office, women are more chatty. In my particular office, the only male admin is more chatty.

            (And for what it’s worth, my female friends and I are perfectly capable of watching TV in silence as well.)

          2. Forrest*

            I think people’s objections are that you’re implying that your experience is accepted social norm ie fact.

      2. BCW*

        Also, to be clear I’m not saying its always true that women talk more or anything. I just think sometimes people don’t want to acknowledge differences that are really there. The face is men and women are different. I think its generally true, and if anyone wants to argue this fact then fine, but an office with 90% men will usually have a different culture and feel to it than an office that is 90% women. One isn’t necessarily better or more professional, just different. Its not sexist to say that.

        1. Anonymous*

          I interpreted the OP’s mention that the office was female-dominated as adding context for Alison to advise on how to respond given the dynamics of the office, not that chit-chat itself was inherently ‘female’. I appreciate that the culture of the organisation could be mentioned without making comments on gender – the OP could have just said that the office was ‘very polite’. That said, I do think it might be that the OP was concerned that very polite female-dominated environments particularly may take less kindly to the direct “shutting down” approach he or she was minded to take. I am a woman and I do sometimes adapt my style to be less direct with some (but by no means all – appreciate it’s a personality thing) female colleagues than I am with male colleagues. In very general terms, my directness, in my experience, is more likely to elicit comment from a female colleague than in a male one (even if it’s meant as a compliment). It’s not something I consider often but I do believe that that nuance can be there in some female-dominated offices.

              1. Anonicorn*

                I swear my typing today is horrible. That was supposed to say *naturally more talkative.

                Girls should, because of an increased language-associated protein in a language area of the brain, learn language more easily than boys – and are presumably able to talk more than boys . Whether having an easier time with language acquisition is actually linked to talking more later in life is certainly questionable.

        2. TheSnarkyB*

          No, it’s not sexist to say that. And I’m certainly not making that accusation. I think the early responses at least (like jesika309 and myself) were more objecting to the way OP included it. I think we’d all be having a different conversation here if they’d fleshed it out, but to me it felt like it was dropped in there without me goin of why it was relevant, as if we would all be on the same page about that- and that’s where I start to see murky territory re: gendered assumptions, etc

        3. Cat*

          But if they are different they’re not different in generally talking more. Study after study has invalidated the idea that women talk more then men. It’s just an urban legend.

      3. Hous*

        But would your advice for the OP be different if it was a male-dominated environment? The relevance isn’t determined by whether or not it’s true that women small talk more, it’s determined by how the OP should deal with the situation. If it’s men doing the small talk, I don’t see why the OP should deal with it differently, so the detail is irrelevant.

        1. V*

          I’m assuming the OP is a man, and was noting that his office is female dominated because it adds to his sense of “not fitting the mold” at his office. In the context of his question – what should I do to manage office politics while asserting my need to work outside of the chit-chat convention of this office – any source of discomfort at being different from the rest of his office is relevant.

        2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          But the fact is the advice COULD be different. OP doesn’t necessarily know if that piece of data is relevant or not, but they suspect it might be, and thus included it. I agree that the environments I’ve worked in that were female-dominated tended to be different than ones that are male-dominated. Gender dynamics can easily influence the way that people approach problems.

      4. stereotypes aren't always evil*

        I agree with you – the OP’s descriptor gave a much clearer picture of the overall situation than we would have received had it been left out. The OP didn’t state anything offensive, but simply shared details that contributed to a clearer understanding of the setting.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Look, the OP mentioned it because she felt it painted a fuller picture of the social dynamics and to many people it does; it’s generally accepted that women often put more emphasis on relationships as a social currency than men do.

      I do not want people writing in to to get nitpicked to death about something that most people would consider a perfectly reasonable detail to include. While I certainly appreciate that this site has attracted a readership who are especially attuned to issues like this (although I’d argue there isn’t actually a gender issue with this letter and people are misreading it), I really don’t want to drive people away who are more typical of mainstream thought in how they discuss things.

      1. TheSnarkyB*

        I totally understand that, and I agree that OP may have been misread here. Out of curiosity, though, is there also concern about driving away people who are more typical of progressive thought or are attuned to things like this? I’m just wondering how that is seen from the side of running a website, numbers game, getting the majority of the majority, etc. if that makes any sense.

  3. Jessa*

    The issue with city employee raises may tie into some union contracts or possibly some protected class issues if they’re treating some classes differently because of where they live (IE if more people who move out are of one group and it adversely ends up impacting a protected group, I’m thinking race here, for instance.)

    The issue with residency…I can see both sides of it. There are arguments to be made about for instance police officers and wanting people who live in the areas they are protecting because well there’s a concept that you work harder to protect where you live than where you don’t, also having even off duty officers living in the neighbourhood is a crime deterrent. And having them flee to outside the city kind of screams “the cops can’t do their job and protect this city.” Other kinds of jobs not so much, but I kind of get it for things like the police department.

    But if there’s a union (and with muni employees there often is) there’s going to be an issue about treating people in the same job tiers differently. Especially if it ends up sorting out by age, gender or race after the tallies are done. Because if older people of one race are able to move and others are not, etc. It becomes a big mess.

    Also it’s not a good way to keep employees. It’ll end up back firing on them somehow. Even if it’s legal to play those kind of money games.

    1. Anonymous*

      I agree that there might be union issues that come up here but they are generally on top of things like this enough that you’d be hearing about how the union felt in the same story that it came out in.

      I also feel like there is something to having some staff work inside the city/county. Police certainly, you can easily run into an us vs them dynamic in a job which is already really heavily power based. Also I’d say people who generally work in the mayor’s office, communications, outreach, even marketing. (If you are going to tell me how this city is so awesome but you don’t even live there I’m not sure I believe you.)

      1. Joey*

        The residency requirements that local cities or counties impose are outdated, counterproductive and really lack any sort of logical business rationale in todays world. If public safety needs to be close all you have to do is require that they’re able to respond within x amount of time. Who cares where they sleep every night?

        Its really ridiculous when you consider that there are usually incorporated suburbs that are effectively inside of city/county limits, although technically not.

        The city I’ve worked at had such a policy, but they got rid of it many moons ago along with other outdated policies like a mandatory retirement age, having the mayor sign off on all new hires, etc.

        If they’re trying to do it to spur economic development they should create incentives, not penalties. I’ve seen govt’s create real incentives for buying a house in targeted areas which makes more sense.

        1. Jessa*

          Didn’t say I thought they were sensible, but I get why they were put in place back in the day.

        2. Mike C.*

          Do you think it’s outdated that a member of congress must reside in the district (House) or state (Senate) they seek or are currently representing?

          1. Jamie*

            That’s completely different. They have power to make decisions that affect people living in that district…so yes, they should live within the mess they help create.

            But your local cop or fireman or teacher aren’t passing legislation which will affect your life nor do they have a say in the taxes you pay.

            They aren’t your official voice in government – your representatives are.

          2. Schnauz*

            And oddly enough, “the ordinance does not affect elected officials …”. So while they think it’s important for say, the city garbage collectors live in Milwaukee, they don’t feel that the city council does so or elected judges or whoever. The people who you could really make an argument for this being beneficial to the city, don’t give up a pay raise if they move outside Milwaukee. My cyncisim wonders how many of the alderman who voted on this live outside of Milwaukee limits?

            Of course, elected officials may already have a requirement to stay in bounds but the article doesn’t say so.

          3. Editor*

            I believe a member of the House of Representatives has to live in the state he or she represents, but not necessarily in the House district. Voters, however, tend to prefer resident representatives.

            In regard to Milwaukee’s residency requirement, I think part of what fuels that is that if an employee earns money from the city, city officials want to see that money recirculating in the city, in addition to wanting the worker to be experiencing the city. It seems to be more of an issue for cities and municipalities where the cost of living is high (workers can’t afford to live in the city — I think one of the upmarket suburbs of Detroit built special housing for its teachers, who couldn’t afford to live there) or in municipalities that are in decline or that have schools in decline (where city workers may not want to live where home values are dropping or where their kids can’t get a good education unless the worker pays for private school).

            I do think residency requirements are outmoded. However, I can say as someone who worked for years in a community a long commute away — commuting isn’t the same as residence. The experience is different, the knowledge of the community is different, and commuters who claim living outside is no different are kidding themselves. The commuter isn’t quite as good a fit in the municipality’s work culture as a resident worker would be.

    2. anon*

      I think it would depend on the position and the skill and education level required for the position. For positions where you want to attract the best possible candidate, like people higher up in the municipal legal department or top tier administration, I can see waiving the residency requirement. For lower tiered clerical and other similar jobs, enforce it. Someplace like Milwaukee is a place that attracts a lot of educated professionals and I don’t think they’d have any problem filling lower to middle tier city positions from city residents. I think the issue that they are raising is that longtime city employees may have lived in Milwaukee when they were hired how many years ago but have since moved out to the suburbs and commute into the city.

      The state of Wisconsin is a special beast right now for state and other government employees.

      1. LMW*

        That would actually be a reasonable policy. The problem with the policy up until the recent changes is that you *never* got to move. MPS has lost ton of great teachers because they don’t want to raise their kids in that school district and you are stuck in the city limits the entire length of your employment. I was in a LTR with a teacher and there were only two neighborhoods that qualified that I was willing to consider buying a house in. He’d already put in 10 years in the district and there was no potential to move out of the city. He loved his job and was dedicated to the school he was in (which is saying a lot, because it’s a rough gig!), and he started to look outside the district just so he could have a greater choice on where to live.

        1. mollsbot*

          Only two neighborhoods, I’m curious, which ones?

          My top 3:
          Downer Woods (ha! $$$$)
          Bay View/Tippecanoe (raised in the area)
          Washington Heights (beautiful homes)

          1. LMW*

            Downer Woods/Upper East side
            Bay View (far east side)

            I grew up in Tosa, on the Heights border, and haven’t liked the increase in crime that I’ve seen there over the last few years (my cousins and parents both had break ins). Although, I wouldn’t rule it out entirely for the right house. It really is a beautiful area.

            Honestly, though, for buying, I’d rather be in a more rural area altogether (like Cedarburg or the southwest side of Franklin), so being confined to the city entirely was very frustrating.

            1. mollsbot*

              Yeah Bay View is seeing a slight increase in garage break-ins. Thankfully my parents haven’t been hit.

              The idea of living in Franklin or Cedarburg gives me nightmares ;) To each their own though, and I’d rather live in Franklin or Cedarbur instead, say, Muskego. *cringe*


      2. Loose Seal*

        I don’t understand why you want to waive it for the higher tier and not the lower. Doesn’t it make more sense for the mayor, the city planner, fire chief, etc. to live in the city limits? They are the ones making decisions for the city. Who cares where the tag office clerks live?

        1. anon*

          Teachers should be exempted from residency requirements. Given how difficult it is to attract and more importantly, retain teachers, it makes sense allowing some flexibility for residence. That same flexibility shouldn’t be applied to some administrative assistant who lived in the city when hired 25 years but has since moved out to the suburbs.

          The mayor, fire chief, and police chief absolutely should be city residents.

          Scott Walker has raised expanding Act 10, banning collective bargaining for state employees, to the police and fire fighters, who were exempted in 2011 due to campaign contributions in 2010 to him from their union. Some have seen that as the first step of him dipping into the Wisconsin Retirement System, which all state, county, and municipal employees pay into for their retirement. Having lived in Illinois when a certain ex-governor now in federal prison did that, I can say that any politician of either party treating their state’s employee retirement fund as their personal piggy bank is a bad idea.

          1. Andrea*

            The idea behind having civil servants come from the city they are serving has additional concerns:

            1. Tax dollars have been seen as a source of local jobs. Why not prioritize people who pay taxes benefiting from city employment?
            2. Ties in with the power of local politicians and their voting base. Municipal unions have a lot of power and get power by local jobs.
            3. Issue of service to the city you live in. There is a reason they are called civil servants.

            Not that I agree with the reasons above, but residency restrictions have backing beyond what has been discussed here.

          2. annie*

            I agree on waiving requirements for some categories, especially in areas where it is hard to attract teachers. A relative of mine is a very specialized (hard to find)type of teacher in a high needs school and they are able to get a waiver on the residency requirement. They have owned their house for 40 years, so they wouldn’t have sold it and moved into the city just to get this job, and it’s pretty unlikely the city would have had many outstanding candidates to choose from for this rather specialized role, so I think it is a win-win.

            I think the other issue is that for people like police, firefighters, teachers and doctors at the county hospital, their jobs are more like “callings” that they are going to continue to commit to for many years because of strong beliefs in helping the people of their city, and they often will work there for many decades until they retire. In those cases, I think it makes most sense to be able to allow flexibility in residency requirements in exchange for what is most often a career-long commitment.

    3. Chinook*

      Ironically, the reason may chose to live outside their patrol area is because hey do their job well and really can’t turn it off. Everywhere they go, they run into someone they have arrested, notified of a death or helped as a victim. Forget about ordering at any restaurant where you are not 100% sure the kitchen staff likes cops. Forget about showing affection publicly by even holding hands because now people see a weak spot to use against you (your family).

      I am proud of what DH does but we always go out to the nearby city to do anything otherwise he is constantly watching for the 1% who make up 80% of his job.

    4. glennis*

      I don’t know about Milwaukee, but the municipal agency I work for is a very affluent city. There’s no way I could afford to live there if it were a requirement – and being penalized in some way would be insult to injury.

      My city does scale some fees – like recreation class fees and park reservation fees – so that residents pay less than non-residents, and while as a non-resident employee it irks me, I understand and accept that.

      1. Elaine*

        Milwaukee is quite affordable, and there are definitely areas of the city that city employees flocked to (Bay View, Wauwatosa, etc.). I liked the requirement and was dating a cop at the time; he didn’t have a problem with it either. Not sure why the State is getting involved with a city matter–Scott Walker probably has a bone to pick with his ex-opponents.

  4. jesicka309*

    OP #5 Unfortunately, you do not work inside a vacuum. You will have to interact with people on occasion, and I’m pretty sure that’s the case in most workplaces.
    And honestly, the examples you’ve listed are quite reasonable. Are you really ‘working’ while waiting for the printer? Is it a burden to talk to a coworker for an extra minute or two about something other than work?
    Not to mention the line about the ‘female dominated environment’. Are you trying to say everyone is more chatty because they’re female? If that’s the case, you’re very misguided. Both men and women make small talk throughout the day – how awful the world would be if we never spoke to the people we spend 9 hours a day with. :(
    I think the OP in this situation needs to learn to deal with working amongst other people, or else find a job where he doesn’t have to leave his house.

    1. Elise*

      But in a male-dominated work environment, the conversation would be about sports teams. That’s important talk, not chatty small talk. /sarcasm

      Perhaps the OP just isn’t good at expressing what he means. He may have been trying to say that he was already feeling like an outsider because he was a man in an office of mostly woman and he didn’t want to do anything that would add to that separation.

    2. Colette*

      Yeah, the “I’m too busy for small talk while I’m standing at the printer waiting for my printout” stood out for me, too. I would find it really odd if two or more people were waiting for printouts in complete silence.

      If she has her printout and the other person’s still talking, it’s fine to say something and leave, but if she’s waiting, it doesn’t hurt to commiserate about how slow the printer is.

      1. Jamie*

        This is what I came here to comment on, too.

        Hard to believe I’m on the side of small talk, but even I see that as reasonable when waiting for the printer, or sitting and waiting a moment or two for the meeting to start.

        The other thing that stood out to me was lumping in work related small talk with non-related chit chat. A few minutes of chat about how a colleague feels about a project or client is often valuable information. Balking at opinions regarding the work takes this, as I read it, from not being a small talk person (which I get) to wanting to control that people only speak to you about items you deem relevant which is not a good way of dealing with anyone.

        The other chatty post…I totally don’t get. Maybe it’s demeanor because while I like to think of myself as a polite and professional person I cannot imagine anyone standing in my office continuing to talk after I told them I needed to get back to work. How does this happen?

        1. Anonymous*

          Being too afraid of being seen as rude to be direct and say it and so you continue to engage in it with nods and smiles and mmmhms.

          1. Jamie*

            Maybe that’s it. I guess I just don’t equate direct with being rude. I’ve certainly smiled and been friendly while telling people I need to get back to work but there is no ambiguity about it.

            1. Colette*

              I can be direct when necessary, too, and this isn’t a problem I’ve ever had.

              My mom’s uncle used to have a saying – “If I say something, they’ll be upset. If I don’t, I’ll be upset. I’d rather it was them.”

              But really, anyone who is upset because you have to get back to work while you’re at work has other issues they need to deal with.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      I feel kind of mean about this, but my first thought after reading #5 was that I am happy I don’t work with the OP. I can understand not wanting someone to stand at your desk and chat, but being “tremendously annoyed” by water cooler chat seems over the top to me.

      1. Tina*

        Ditto on the “standing by the printer” thing. I don’t see the problem with it sometimes, though I’d agree if you were constantly crossing paths by the printer that I wouldn’t necessarily want to talk each and every time.

      2. MrsKDD*

        That’s what I thought too. Being annoyed at having to chat with co workers makes for long days at work. Obviously no one appreciates being interrupted while working, but the occasional “hi, how was your weekend?” or “argh, that meeting dragged on forever” shouldn’t be so grating you feel the need to write AAM for advice on how to deal with it.

    4. Anonicorn*

      It wasn’t clear to me that OP was also waiting on the printer.

      I was picturing something like when Peggy had to deal with that giant printer in her office.

      1. Anonicorn*

        Oops, should have added, “I was picture something like in Mad Men when Peggy had to deal with that giant printer in her office.”

        1. Jamie*

          Oh totally different in that case. That would send me scurrying to request a change of desk pronto. I thought it was in reference to the odd times you’re standing around waiting for a moment or two.

          I firmly believe shared printers should be in communal areas and not near where individuals are working at their desks. It’s one of the tenets of my (IT) faith.

          1. Colette*

            Our printer is in the kitchen, next to the bathrooms. It’s a great idea, but it always takes me two trips to get my printouts.

            (Ahh, ice water, now what was I doing … oops, forgot my printout.)

        2. Colette*

          If that’s the case, I agree it would be annoying (and I’d probably try to get some sort of portable whiteboard or something to create a barrier so that people don’t think I’m open to talking all the time).

        3. Stevie*

          I used to have the office printer sitting on my desk and everyone would come in and out. I would post funny pictures or news stories near the printer to get a chuckle from people. Maybe the OP could start putting up cute cat pictures or something? To me, I would read that as “look, I’m being social and reaching out to co-workers,” but people would also be too interested in the picture/story/poem to bother OP. Win-win?

      2. Lily in NYC*

        A scanner used by 80 people sits right on my desk. People love to chat with me while they wait for it to warm up. They also stand in front of my desk when they are waiting to talk to the big boss. I am usually fine with it but if I need to concentrate, I just tell the person nicely that I’m in the middle of something and they leave me alone. It’s all about communication. No one gets hurt feelings because I smile when I say it and we are all mature adults.

    5. Anonymous*

      I hate small talk, even at the office, but a quick chuckle at someone’s joke at the printer. Or a smile and nod when getting water can make a big difference in how you are perceived. (The other big trick I use is be friendly early in the week, and ideally early in the job, and then you can slack and be busy most of the time.)

    6. Imogene*

      At my last job, we practiced Silent Workplace and it was wonderful. We communicated all the time via email and text, but everyone had all the quiet we needed to really concentrate. Meetings took place behind closed doors. The only noise was when someone took an incoming call. The only downside (and this was just for me, personally) is that now I’m hyper-sensitive to noise of all kinds.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I worked in a place like that and it was horrible. In fact, people would get written up for being chatty. It was very sad and stifling. We had an outside person come in one day and remark that the place was like a morgue, it was so quiet.

          That environment didn’t work well for me at all.

          1. Windchime*

            I used to work in a room of all programmers (including me). We would literally go for hours without anyone saying a word because we were all deep in concentration. Others would remark how eerily quiet it was, but we loved it. It was one of the only times that I’ve ever been in the kind of quiet environment that I really need.

            1. Ruffingit*

              I can see that for programmers. Certain jobs really do require silence as the default. It’s just not something that would work for me personally.

            1. Imogene*

              It was in place when I started there, so I don’t know who started it. I thought is was kind of weird when they explained it in the interview, but after about half an hour into my first day I loved it. It cut the stress to almost zero. Relearning how to deal with noise has not been fun, however.

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t know if I woke up on the social side of the bed this morning or what, but that would feel oppressive even for me.

        But I support the right of any business to set their own culture.

        (Actually it’s weird, to say I’m not chatty is an understatement, but my chatty co-worker (not too chatty – just friendly) is out on maternity leave and I kind of miss someone stopping by just to say hi. It was nice having someone stick their head in my office because they wanted to see me rather than because they need something RIGHT NOW. )

        I think I’m lonely. Weird. That never happens.

        1. Colette*

          I sometimes work stat holidays, and I like the silence then, but I don’t know how I’d feel if it were every day. I also like (limited) interactions with coworkers.

      2. Chris80*

        +1 for being hyper-sensitive to noise after this. As a teen, I was home-schooled for several years while both of my parents worked full time out of the house. It was literally dead silent all day long while I did school work. Dealing with a normal classroom/studying environment when I went to college took some adjustment!

        I definitely wouldn’t want to have that kind of enforced silence in a work environment since I know how hard it is to adjust to normal environments afterwards.

      3. anon*

        It’s quiet where I work too, unless people are on the phone or standing around talking. Sometimes they/we horse around a little and get slightly rowdy. I haven’t been here that long, but I’ve started to get used to the silence and even appreciate it.

        Until today, when I found out that I have to help cover the front desk–a job I thought I would never have to do again. I don’t know how I’m going to deal with the interruptions, phone, noise, etc. My blood pressure just shot up sixty points.

      4. glennis*

        Doing that occasionally would be an interesting exercise, but I certainly wouldn’t want it to be that way all the time!

    7. Tony in HR*


      I know sometimes I’m the one initiating the chit-chat, and sometimes I’m not. All you need to do, IMO, is learn how to end a conversation politely. Sometimes, if it peters off, I just walk away before a new topic starts with a “well, back to work!” Other times, I have to say “sorry I have ___” to get back to.

      In my opinion, deal with it, accept it, but if it bothers you, don’t let it go on more than a few minutes. Keeps you from looking like an ice queen that way.

      On the other hand, at least you won’t look like an ice KING regardless of what you do. You need to start kidnapping princesses and calling people Gunther to get that distinction.

      1. jesicka309*

        An Adventure Time reference!! My day is complete.

        Also, Lumpy Space Princess Rocks my world. :)

  5. Katie*

    I always thought the main purpose of residency requirements was to ensure a captive middle class within a city, not just to treat city residents preferentially (especially since many only require residency once you’re employed).

    1. FiveNine*

      I keep thinking about the headlines too — you just know there would be all sorts of headlines if a big chunk of any major city’s workers on the taxpayer’s dime were from another city. Same with state employees, that’d be huge news taxpayer-money wise. I mean as it is there are all sorts of touchy taxpayer issues with, for example, taxing even just commuters coming in from suburbs but taking city jobs. (Not that any of this has anything to do with the legal questions. I’m just talking the straight-up ugly politics now.)

      1. LV*

        See, that doesn’t make sense to me. My taxpayer money goes to pay City X employees’ salaries because City X employees do work that benefits me and everyone else who lives in City X. Why should it matter where the employees actually live?

        1. Stevie*

          I think the political argument is that City X pays this guy but he then spends all of his income in Suburb Y. Those property taxes, mortgages and whatnot fund better schools elsewhere and create jobs for a different town to benefit. Residency requirements just help to make those tax dollars stretch even farther.
          The biggest city in my state is still relatively small, so we don’t have those requirements that I know of. But I can see where Chicago residents would be upset if you can’t find anywhere in the city to live, maybe?

          1. Joey*

            Yes, that’s the typical argument. But its really short sighted. Shouldn’t the city be worried more about the local geographic economy? Its not like those people keep all of their money in the suburb. The money they spend in town leads to more jobs and economic growth for the city.

            1. Natalie*

              That probably depends on the tax structure and overall economic health of the area. In my city, there’s no local sales or income tax. Nearly all of the city funding comes from property taxes, particularly school funding.

              1. Anonymous*

                It works both ways. Suburbanites spend money in the city which funds more jobs in the city which leads to a bigger tax base

          2. Marnie*

            In Chicago, what you get is a cluster of city-limits suburbs; technically within the city limits, but profoundly suburban in feel. Those quasi-suburbs are high-priced and very desirable places to live. And yeah, most of the shopping takes place across the line in the actual suburb so the city doesn’t get the extra tax revenue.

          3. Rana*

            I think there’s also the political side of it – having city employees living in the city demonstrates that they’re invested in the city. An equivalent would be wanting public school teachers to have their children enrolled in the public schools, because it would look weird if they were all in private schools – it would send a message that the schools (or in this case the city) aren’t “good enough” for the employees.

            (Full disclosure: my husband’s a part-time employee for our city’s community colleges, and if he ever wants to go full time, he’ll be expected to live in the city. At present, this isn’t a hardship for us, as we’d rather live in the city anyway.)

      2. Joey*

        But your taxes are more about the services and infrastructure your city receives, not dictating where the people proving them live. Would you really want to compromise those for the peace of mind of where employees live.

        Its not like those salaries don’t make it back to the local economy.

        1. Elaine*

          There is a lot of talent in the city of Milwaukee. I don’t think they’d do badly with a pool of residents only.

      3. glennis*

        I work for a city government and my city is too affluent for me to afford to live there. I certainly feel like I contribute; I keep myself informed about local issues, and I even have had occasion to attend city council meetings in order to be available to answer questions about issues I work on, if they come up, and I think a lot about serving my city community. But I sure as heck can’t afford to live there.

        Frankly, I feel like I have a better sense of objectivity than a resident would. What if someone who worked in Planning, or in Street Maintenance had to work on an assignment that affected his or her own block?

    2. BCW*

      I think residency requirements make a lot of sense. Granted, I live in Chicago, so we will already have a very high population of qualified people within city limits. But yeah, you want the tax payer money paying people who live there. You want cops and firefighters protecting their city, when possible.

      1. Joey*

        Does it really make sense to not hire a great person who is technically a resident of a suburb, but lives right in the middle of town?

      2. Jamie*

        Speaking as a Chicagoan myself, I completely disagree with this. Forcing public servants to live within city limits in many cases also forces them to pay private school tuition on a cop or firefighters pay. There are some schools in the city which are good, but many are not. My husband is the son of a Chicago cop as were almost all of the kids in his neighborhood growing up (or firefighters) and without exception every one of them went to private school due to the options they had with CPS in their area.

        It’s also forcing civil servants to pay the ridiculously higher tax rates in the city, rather than allowing them to live where they can be more comfortable on their incomes.

        Heck – we live in Cook County and my husband drives the cars over to Will just to fill the tanks because the taxes are oppressive…but nothing compared to if I forget to get gas and have to stop in the city before heading home.

        Requiring city residency just forces them into higher living expenses for people who make a decent but by no means affluent living.

        And no, if there is a crime or fire in my neighborhood I don’t care where the cop or firefighter helping me lives…they are still serving my community and that’s what I pay taxes for.

        1. Jamie*

          To be fair I was using Chicagoan loosely – I’ve never lived in the city proper, but my view as a suburbanite comes from my husband who was born and raised in the city (Norwood Park) and while we both work in the city he has always been adamant about not living there for the reasons mentioned.

          1. Rana*

            I think the school quality issue is a real one – we’re currently looking to move out of our apartment and it’s been challenging finding affordable housing in an area that’s within the city limits and has decent schools.

            As for the taxes, higher gas costs, etc…. eh. The convenience of living in a dense urban area with access to mass transit and similar amenities makes it worth it to us.

      3. Anonymous*

        I always thought residency requirements were for emergency purposes–i.e., if there’s an act of domestic terrorism, you want your emergency responders (even off-duty) to be within minutes away, not an hour away, for example.

        1. Jamie*

          But there are no requirements regarding miles away – because that may make sense in this instance.

          In Chicago, for example, you can live far closer to your precinct or station living a nearby suburb than if you lived within the city but in a different part of town.

          If I lived in Edison Park and was concerned about first responders living close by I’d much rather they live in Park Ridge (basically across the street) than in another part of town.

    3. RB*

      Having family in Milwaukee and surrounding areas, they have complained about the high cost of living in the city along with schools. Many have moved outside of the city limits because of these issues.

      I can see first responders having that requirement, but otherwise it’s very short sighted.

      1. Elaine*

        I guess it’s all relative. I lived there for twelve years and moved recently–it’s by far the lowest cost of living nice city I’ve been in. You can drive 40 minutes out and maybe buy more land for the money, but you can buy a really decent house for $200K or less in a decent city neighborhood. It’s standard mid-western city cost of living; 100% on the COLA index (100% being costly).

  6. Brett*

    The fraternal order of police have a great document on residency requirements. I’ll try to summarize some parts from it.

    Residency requirements are not necessarily legal. It sometimes takes state level action to make them illegal, but Cleveland challenged this state level action in court and lost. The idea of residency requirements is that tax dollars should be retained inside the borders of the city whenever possible; and that those dollars should be used to stabilize city neighborhoods.
    Residency requirements also have a positive effect on response time (especially when you have to call in staff to cover) and “mixing with the community” is supposed to improve relationships between municipal government and residents. These are the main arguments used to demonstrate a “rational basis” for imposing residency rules (otherwise, they could be viewed as unconstitutional restrictions on the right to free travel).

    Residency rules have been successfully challenged on a civil rights basis, without state action, in particular pre-employment residency requirements (must live in the city x number of days before applying). Basically, if a city population is missing one ethic population that is present at higher levels in the general surrounding area, then the residency rules will have a disparate impact resulting in a civil rights violation. This was how Detroit’s residency rule was struck down in the early 90s (which, interestingly enough, did result in massive middle class flight to the suburbs, loss of tax revenue into the suburbs, and a further decline of the city).

    More related to the OP’s case though is the New Orleans case (Police Association of New Orleans v.
    City of New Orleans, 649 So.2d 951 (La.1995) New Orleans restricted promotions to based on where the employee domiciled (as opposed to resided, domicile is your primary residence, New Orleans allowed employees to domicile elsewhere as long as they had a residency in the Orleans Parish). In that case, differential treatment (similar to what Milwaukee was doing) was thrown out because there was not an appropriate government interest in maintaining such differential treatment. There was also a disparate impact component of this case, New Orleans was already trying to comply with a consent decree based on this disparate impact, and anything that occurs in civil law Louisiana certainly does not reflect what could happen in all the other English common law states.

    Unions have always been the frontline in fighting such residency requirements. Residency requirements are definitely more common in regions without public sector unions. So, the imposition of this differential treatment is probably strongly related to the recent changes in Wisconsin and it might be difficult for anyone to mount a legal challenge to them. Yet, such a challenge might be possible, especially if there is a disparate impact on the basis of a protected class (even if “where you live” is not by itself a protected class).

    1. Brett*

      As a side note, it was the police union in Milwaukee that pushed the bill to eliminate residency requirements. The state legislature has been largely supportive of public safety unions as opposed to other public sector unions; so you might see this differential pay rule get dealt with by the state legislature there as well.

      1. some1*

        I live in the upper midwest & have visited Milwaukee many times. An important issue to note is that cops are notoriously low paid. Buying a house in a good, safe neighborhood could be more difficult within the City limits vs. the suburbs on a cop’s salary.

      2. Jessa*

        Not surprised at that, it’s almost always the police they want in the city limits (usually because the off duty presence wherever they end up having to live is considered a deterrent to crime.)

    2. EngineerGirl*

      C’mon Brett. The Detroit ruling didn’t result with a middle class flight to the suburbs because they were already long, long, long gone. Many fled in the 60s during the riots – the rest trickled out through the years.

      It really annoys me when I see data misrepresented like this.

      1. Brett*

        Detroit had a very dramatic acceleration in population loss, and especially middle class population loss, over the last 10 years.

        Do some reading on the disappearance of the Copper Canyons in Detroit as soon as the last union contract with the residency rule ran out. There is no doubt that they disappear, but question as to the magnitude of the impact of their disappearance. Or read some of the debate about the impact of the residency rule on detroit local forums, like here:

  7. Tina*

    OP #1 – if you haven’t already been doing this, I’d suggest you talk to as many people in your fields of interest as possible, and get advice from them on how best to market yourself. Hopefully they can give you some insight on how your qualifications would be viewed by people already in the field. Since you didn’t mention a specific career path or industry, I’m not sure how important education vs experience is, but you may also want to consider looking at internships to supplement your work experience.

    1. Andrea*

      I also wonder if pushing how young you are with a master’s is of limited use. Great, you have an advanced degree and no work experience. That makes you less valuable, in many respects, than someone without a master’s, but with experience. There is a reason most people work before getting a master’s, since what they bring to the degree and get out of the degree is different than someone who is fresh out of school with no work experience.

      In short, it can come off as a clueless smart kid.

      1. Tina*

        That’s possible. Depending on the field, a graduate degree doesn’t necessarily compensate for lack of actual work experience. It could be perceived that the candidate lacks judgment, that they should have made a point to get experience .

        Earning those degrees at such a young age is definitely an accomplishment, but you’ll need to be very clear at spelling out how your academic skills would benefit the job in question, and consider ways to expand on your experience in the meantime.

        1. Stevie*

          What if the OP was a year younger and got a BA at 17? Lots of retail establishments have an age requirement of 18 for insurance purposes or whatnot, so those jobs would be limited. Do offices have the same requirements? The OP was young, but what else was she expected to do but keep trucking with school for a few more years? She still couldn’t even bartend where I live! It seems like she could spin this some way to not seem like she has too much education without enough experience.

    2. Bwmn*

      As someone who graduated young myself – I 100% agree with this. Some professional fields are more open to youth culture and young employees – but a lot are not not.

      If anything highlighting my younger graduation age seemed to emphasize that a) I would reject any kind of “busy work” as I rejected the “busy work” of high school, therefore would be ruled out for entry level positions and b) that not only did I not have professional experience, I also had no life experience. I did much better (and was eventually hired) when all indications of my age were removed from my applications so that my resume only spoke to my education, internships, and the professional experience I did have.

  8. Anonymous*

    When did higher education become a female-dominated industry? Back in 2004 there was a study saying that the male/female ratio was about 50-50 at community colleges but that other institutions had a huge male majority. Unless we’re talking about support staff, in which case, yes, females are prevalent because, yanno, we just yak too much to be taken seriously for better jobs.

    Then again, if OP #5 is so superior in skillz and professionalism, I have to wonder why he’s their peer in the first place.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      I’ve worked in higher education for many years, and in a number of areas (particularly support staff, most of student affairs, but also alumni affairs and parts of the development divisions) you will see many more women than men. Faculty is a different matter, with the gender ratios being more skewed toward men, generally (though this is changing), particularly in many STEM fields.

      1. fposte*

        Though historically female departments are often still female dominated even in faculty and high admin.

    2. Anonicorn*

      How does everyone know OP 5 is male? Was that stated somewhere and I missed it? It wasn’t just this comment, but some others above as well.

      I also missed where he implied having superior anything-ness.

    3. TheSnarkyB*

      I got the sense that maybe it isn’t a college or university, for some reason. For instance, if it’s a school of education, their “Higher Ed” graduate department might be female-dominated, or if it’s like.. A higher Ed magazine or something. For some reason I got the sense that it’s more of an office setting and so maybe it’s About Higher Ed, not In it. Does that make sense?

      1. Stevie*

        I think he’s talking about the support staff who help run the university. There’s a lot of behind the scenes office work that needs to get done to keep things running, but the students don’t necessarily see that part of it.

        1. Kate*

          Yep, that’s what I thought. I work in university development and all my offices have been in regular office buildings just off the main campus. I never see students or faculty or anything you’d see in an admissions brochure. I’d guess OP #5 is in a similar setting.

  9. Not So NewReader*

    Non-resident municipal employees. Smaller towns and especially villages around me are finding that they do not have the labor pool to choose from and must go outside the lines of the municipality to hire. Part of this problem has been exasperated by the lousy economy. People are fleeing to where the jobs are.

    In talking with random taxpayers, (not a scientific study here!) the commentary has been that they have higher confidence in outsiders when it comes to being fair/impartial. Hiring residents implies that the employee will come loaded with preconceived notions and biases.

    As Alison says- hiring the best person for the job is the route to go.

    Sorry OP, am not a lawyer but I can tell you what I see working in village government jobs. I understand the desire to hire local but I think that expanding to the surrounding area is the right thing to do.

    For OPs 1 and 3: I think your stories are very interesting. You both were very brief in your descriptions here and yet we learned a lot about your work ethic. I would use a similar brief explanation in your cover letter. Just reading it here caught my eye. I said “Wow, how did they do this?” It’s a great conversation opener and a prime opportunity to demonstrate how you both set goals and accomplish those goals. It definitely caught my attention. As Alison said keep it simple, keep it factual. Mention it once or twice then stop. It sounds like bragging if you keep mentioning it over and over. But the first or second time you say it that is just introducing yourself and describing your accomplishments so far.

    Chatty coworkers. I am not one to spend a lot of time chatting but I do feel that some small talk is an absolute necessity. Without any small talk the work place becomes formidable then down right hostile.

  10. A teacher*

    I have several friends that teach for CPS and are required to live in the city of Chicago. I live in another larger Illinois town and our fire, police, and city workers are required to live in city limits if they were hired in the last 5 or so years. Those hired before that must live within 15 miles. The town I grew up in is similar so I guess I’ve also just known that as a policy. Not saying its the best policy but it seems kind of common.

    1. AP*

      Verrrrry anecdotally, what I’ve seen in New York City is that city employees must live in the state of New York, but don’t have to live in the city. So you can commute in from Long Island, but not Hoboken.

      It’s always funny to me when NYPD cops get lost on the subway in Brooklyn, trying to get to the courthouse, because it’s pretty clear that they take the train in from somewhere else and have no idea how the A/C line works.

      1. doreen*

        Actually, most NYC jobs require NYC residency. There are a few that don’t require city residency but do require residency in certain counties (police, fire , teaching etc) and a few hard-to fill jobs that exempt the entry level position from residency requirements, but only as long as they remain “hard-to-fill” . I had one of those hard- to fill jobs once- out of 40 people hired with me, there were 5 of us who lasted a year. However, if someone living outside the city took a promotion , they had 90 days to move- because those jobs weren’t hard to fill.

  11. mollsbot*

    Before the discussion of Milwaukee takes a turn for the political I’d like to say this:

    I love Milwaukee. I was born here, and I’ve decided to set up my roots here. The city is booming with culture and enthusiasm at the moment and I really believe we are moving in a positive direction. Everyone I know that has visited Milwaukee for the first time has said that the city was really welcoming and they can’t wait to come back.

    **getting verklempt** I love you fellow Milwaukeeans.

    1. some1*

      Well, I’m a regular visitor here, but Milwaukee has certainly had its share of visitors. The French missionaries and explorers were coming here as early as the late 1600s to trade with the Native Americans.

        1. some1*

          On a non-Wayne’s World note, my parents met at a wedding in Milwaukee Labor Day weekend 41 years ago. So without it, I wouldn’t be here.

      1. jfq*

        Actually, it’s pronounced “mill-e-wah-que,” which is Algonquin for “the good land.”

          1. some1*

            What I think is most interesting is that it’s the only major American city to ever elect three Socialist mayors.

                1. Jamie*

                  My dad was from that era – German born and raised here…later a WWII marine.

                  It’s amazing I ever learned to relax.

            1. the gold digger*

              I believe they were socialists of the school that is old. That is, German immigrants fleeing a feudal system. But that is where my knowledge ends. Based on the many private businesses that thrived here 100 years ago, I am guessing they had no antipathy towards profits at all.
              (/uniformed political/historical opinions)

              1. the gold digger*

                Oh my word. Uninformed, not uniformed opinions.

                And I realized later that socialists probably don’t have a problem with profits but instead have specific ideas about how they should be distributed. I am guessing that the German businessmen here had no problems keeping all the profits themselves.

                1. Elaine*

                  In fact, the Milwaukee Germans set up a lot of publicly funded youth centers and liked a high level of public services.

        1. KSW*

          And it’s the only American city to elect three Socialist mayors. #Wayne’s World #Alice Cooper #Awesome Movie Quotes

        2. LMW*

          I came across a map that had all translated (english) place names instead of actual city names, and it had Milwaukee listed as “The Good Land.” Unfortunately, it’s not true, but that Wayne’s World quote is so prevalent you have to dig deep in Google to get past it!

          1. Anonymous*

            Oh, I’ve seen that map. It also takes some serious liberties with the translations that aren’t actually incorrect too.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I have an online friend who lives there. Judging by all the pics he posts on Facebook, there’s no shortage of things to do. :)

      1. mollsbot*

        Bay View representing! Woo hoo!

        I live on the lower east side now and my mom doesn’t understand why I ever left the neighborhood. (If she had it her way, I would be living next door)

        1. Claire*

          I grew up in the ‘burbs (Menomonee Falls), so I’ve just become an official Milwaukeean in the past year. I always knew I wanted to live in Bay View, but I have fantasized about being a fancy person with a condo in the Third Ward.

            1. Claire*

              People who actually live in one, I guess! Those fancy people who somehow are able to be wandering around the ward in cute clothes at all hours of the day. Don’t you work, fancy people?? I want their lives.

                1. mollsbot*

                  Their full time job is leaving their fancy condo and shopping at Anthropologie.

                  BTW did you know that there is a Goodwill in the Third Ward? It’s called Retique and it’s amazing.

                  And I would totally be down for a MKE meetup.

                2. the gold digger*

                  Of course I know about Retique! I go there and then to the nice conignment store on the other side of the street.

                  So maybe we should meet after work sometime? I work downtown and could meet at Retique. :)

                  Or the Public Market.

      2. Elaine*

        I love Milwaukee! It’s a gorgeous city that’s taken a giant leap forward over the last 20 years. I’d move back in a heart beat, but alas my husband insists on mountains. Now we live somewhere cool, but much drier and where the cost of living is WAY higher but the salaries are the same. :(

  12. Law Student*

    Re: #7:
    I am not a lawyer (yet!), and I am most certainly not your lawyer. This is not legal advice, just my own musings.
    This is absolutely legal. First, the city is basically just continuing a recently-abolished state regulation that Gov. Walker has removed. Second, it’s sort of similar to allowing in-state college students to pay less tuition than out-of-state students. You’re creating a financial incentive for people to stay in a given area. The article doesn’t say that they won’t hire people from, say, the suburbs, just that people who don’t live in Milwaukee proper won’t get the 1.5% raise.
    It’s possible that there’s a conflict with state law, but the article doesn’t go into whether the state just repealed residency requirements or banned all residency requirements, even on the local level.

  13. Del*

    Man, I am definitely feeling the chatty coworker letters here! I’ve got a similar situation, although my two chatterers (both of whom unfortunately have cubes adjacent to mine) tend to have more trouble with appropriate topics of conversation than sheer volume of chatter. One complains frequently about the regular work we are assigned to do, the other has a tendency toward TMI and borderline NSFW commentary. (I agree that 50 Shades of Grey isn’t good writing about BDSM, but I don’t want to hear about it in the office!)

    1. Windchime*

      Yeah, the pair of people in my office talk non-stop. If he’s not in her cube yakking, she’s in his. All day long, except for when he’s on a work-related call. They are both in a user support role for applications that don’t seem to actually need a lot of support.

      1. Del*

        Haha, my problem is, they both want to talk to ME. The one because I trained him, the other b/c I’m the other resident office nerdy type and therefore I’m safe, I guess? But ugh. I’m one of the QUIETEST people in the office and I hate chatter.

  14. Keep it Real*

    #7 – As a city employee myself (not in Milwaukee) I have found it extremely difficult to live in the city I work for. We have a very sad excuse for a city council that is making poor decisions, but as a city employee I’m really not allowed to exercise my rights as s resident and stand up to them or advocate for my tax dollars. City council dictates so much of how the city is run employee wise it’s almost a conflict of interest to live here. I’m finding it increasingly hard to pretend that I even support this organization anymore.

    1. glennis*

      I feel your pain. My city is actually pretty well run, on the whole, and in line politically with my own views, but even so, sometimes they make some damned stupid decisions, and it’s my job to unquestioningly uphold them.

  15. Anonymous*

    #5. I also work in higher ed and it’s pretty chatty. That’s just the culture. I agree– we could probably get the work done in half the time, but we don’t and there’s no expectation to.

  16. Joey*

    You know, cities that do this are almost always hypocritical. If they want to keep the money inside of the city that’s fine, but then why do those same cities hire contractors to build roads and capital projects with non-local firms.

  17. AnonyMouse28*

    re OP#5:

    Personally, I think you should be really, really direct whenever someone dares to chat with you while waiting for some printouts, a la “I really don’t want to talk to you right now.” Also, if anyone is chatting in your vicinity, maybe you can “SHHHHH” them very loudly. This way, everyone in the department can shun you as being ‘that antisocial girl’ and nobody will ever speak to you, network with you, offer you insight into possible projects you might want to be involved in or promotions that might be in the offing, etc etc etc. But hey, at least it’ll be quiet! And it’s not like you’d ever want a promotion or anything that would require the assistance or support of your overly-chatty colleagues…

    (also, I’d really appreciate such directness, because as a manager I’d NEVER keep somebody like that on my team and it’d be helpful if ya’ll wore signs or something…)

      1. AnonyMouse28*

        I don’t think I’m bashing her at all (I was being snarky, but I wouldn’t hire somebody like that, and that’s my professional preference). As an introvert myself, I don’t expect my coworkers to accommodate the quirks inherent to that personality type (that’s MY responsibility to address and accommodate based on the office culture I’m in, or to leave said office culture). Just as I wouldn’t expect colleagues and coworkers to have to accommodate the personality quirks of somebody who is overly extroverted.

        If the question had been: “I’m a cheerful person! I love talking with coworkers, have a loud laugh, and I really wish everybody would be more friendly. How can I get people at work to talk to me more?” I’m curious what the response would have been.

        1. Editor*

          “I’m a cheerful person! I love talking with coworkers, have a loud laugh, and I really wish everybody would be more friendly.”

          My next question would be, how can I get out of cubicleland and get an office or fairly private place to work so I don’t distract people when I don’t need to. Please save me from myself and make me more productive.

          In one of the places I worked in the late 1970s, we were moved from a building where we each had separate offices to a cube farm. The first problem became trying to have confidential conversations. Some of what we dealt with had to be discussed privately, so when we wanted to do that work, we had to move to a conference room to get on the phone and pray we’d brought all the documents with us. Yuck. (This was pre-PC, so no email.)

          I like offices where the top half of the wall is glass, so the light moves around, but the sound is better contained. Of course, that means the company has to spend more on floor space and HVAC. Sometimes I wonder if employers ever calculated the cost of lost productivity against the “savings” from cubes.

          1. AnonyMouse28*

            Exactly. Your question would be “how can I resolve this issue for myself without interfering with the office culture” Not “how can I get other people to enjoy my presence more.”

            Also, I so agree with you–offices have become more “open/flat” especially with the start-up ‘revolution,’ (Synergy! Spontaneous brainstorming! *eyeroll*) which means lots of cross-conversation about everything and nothing. I wonder if anybody has calculated how the demand for earplugs have moved since this shift has started…I know I’ve got a stash at my desk!

  18. The IT Manager*

    Hmmm … I am surprised about AAM’s answer to LW#1. She the managements expert and not me, but my gut reaction would be “no, don’t draw attention to your age.” I expected an answer along the lines of you should be focusing on your skills and experience – not your age which also could concern employers. But on the other hand it could be a way to point to your greater maturity than other recent Masters grads since you are competing with 24 and 25 year olds. I might limit mentioning your age and mention your maturity and smarts. It doesn’t look like you made it through your MS any faster than normal, but you must have made it through college in less than four years, right?

    1. The IT Manager*

      adding … depending on your career field being book-smart and a very high academic achiever may or may not really reflect the most valued skill in your career field. You want to make sure you highlight them.

      But have my sympathy. It appeared to others that I had everything I needed to find a desirable job when I was unemployed, but these well wishers didn’t understand the disconnect between the reality of my experience and what the employer needed. In the end I think I found my niche in a job I described as “not my dream job,” but it was something where my experience aligned with the job. I am surprised at how much I enjoy the job.

  19. Dan*


    I work with a lot of advanced-degreed people, some of whom graduated at an age younger than average. TBH, the age criteria alone doesn’t impress me — smarts is only of many things that it takes to succeed in my line of work; people skills are also huge. I’d be worried that the super smart types lack the people skills necessary.

    Graduating at a young age proves you’re smart. What about your accomplishments proves you can work on my team, and are relatively pleasant to work with to boot?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Right, it’s certainly not the only thing the OP has to show, but I think it’s an interesting fact about her and a likely indicator of intelligence. Not the whole picture, but a piece of it.

  20. Steve G*

    Jeez – #5 sounds like a pill with the “ramble about her opinion of the project’s/client’s/method’s merits.” If you can’t even talk for one minute with someone about those WORK RELATED items at WORK (yes, even though not in a formal meeting setting), what are you willing to talk about? And since when is commenting on a project/client/method considered “rambling?”

    1. AnonyMouse28*

      IA. There’s nothing about the employee behaviors that OP#5 (chatting around the printer? discussing clients and projects?) that sound egregious AT ALL.

  21. Anon*

    To OP #1, speaking as someone who graduated from college at a similar age, if you’re still in the beginning of your career, I honestly would avoid mentioning your youth relative to your peers. Even though mentioning your age would undoubtedly show that you are very book smart, it’s a better idea to let your professional demeanor, competence and intelligence stand on its own. Assuming you don’t start in a class of entry-level hires, where people are used to dealing with youngins, you’ll have to work extra hard overcome the preconceptions that people have about young people in the first place; no need to compound that issue by mentioning that you weren’t old enough to drink (assuming you’re in the U.S.) during graduate school.

    1. Loose Seal*

      As someone who skipped my Bachelor’s degree and went straight to a Master’s and, as a result, graduated young as well, I absolutely agree with Anon.

      Unless your field is something that routinely hires people who are younger than usual as a result of blazing through your education, in which case you’d only hurt your candidacy by not mentioning it, then I’d recommend OP leave the information about her age off her application materials.

  22. Ruffingit*

    I think it could backfire on #1 to believe that showing her age in regards to her achievements demonstrates motivation. Just playing devil’s advocate here, but I can see some employers thinking “Well, she got a master’s degree at 20 so what we have here is a child prodigy who may think she’s smarter than the rest of us…” Unfair? Yes, but I can see people thinking that.

    Same thing for showing motivation through getting degrees early. I can see someone thinking “If she got a BS at 18, then she started college at 14. Is that really motivation or more a function of having nothing else to do when you graduate high school at 14. What else was she going to do, it’s not like she could get a job at that young age.”

    Again, understand that I’m not saying these are fair thoughts on the part of employers, but I could see it. I think it’s better to list your degrees and the years you received them as you would on any other job app and then show your experience through internships and jobs, etc. Treat it like any other job application.

    Personally, I would be impressed by someone being intelligent enough to obtain degrees so early, but not everyone feels that way.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Possibly so. It depends because people who graduate at a young age sometimes do so because they are so incredibly smart that there’s no other choice. They sail through the curriculum because it’s just that easy for them to grasp.

        Not trying to downplay the OP’s achievements here at all. I’m just sharing how I can see employers not viewing this as a good thing and why I feel the OP should just approach her job hunt the same way others do and not make her age an issue.

        1. Loose Seal*

          And there could be someone else equally as intelligent whose parents chose not to let them skip grades. So motivation could be part of it or OP could have parents who were squeaky wheels.

        2. Editor*

          There’s just no way to predict how interviewers will react to education information. I recently had an interview where the second person I interviewed with opened with a snarky salvo about how lucky I was to go to an expensive Ivy League college. I’m not sure there’s any way to prepare for an interviewer with a chip on the shoulder about young graduates, too-smart graduates, certain colleges or degree programs, or other random reactions.

          1. Ruffingit*

            That is true, there’s no real way to prepare for chip on their shoulder interviewers. I just err on the side of saying submit your resumes as you normally would.

            And -100 to the interviewer who remarked snarkily on your Ivy education. I once had someone remark on how lucky I was to go to college since not everyone’s parents could afford that. I kindly set that person straight with the fact that I am the only person in my family to attend college, that I received hard earned scholarships, did work study, and took out loans. Amazing the assumptions people will make based on no facts whatsoever.

  23. rek*

    For #3 – Trying not to look so young for interviews. I had the same problem when I first graduated. It is a problem that will eventually take care of itself and someday you’ll be glad of those young looks when you’re 50+ and job searching. But back when I needed to look my age and didn’t, I found it helped to dress on the really, really conservative side of the professional spectrum. (Not quite frumpy, but probably dangerously close.) I also never wore my hair loose, but always pulled it back or put it up – and not pulled back in a headband or any young-looking sort of tie back. Take heart that you don’t have to dress like that all the time, just for those all-important interviews.
    And good luck on those interviews!

  24. Brton3*

    I agree that residency requirements are very strange and inappropriate. On a different note, though, I live in a region that has some extremely wealthy towns where even renting with a roommate could be out of reach for many public employees. Frankly I don’t know how anybody with a “normal” job who isn’t a venture capitalist or CEO of something can afford to live in a couple of these towns. While residency requirements are lame, it’s nice if a public employee at least WANTS to live in the city that employes them, yet that’s out of reach in a number of regions of the country where early career teachers and police officers must deal with very long commutes.

    1. Ruffingit*

      That’s something I’ve thought about as well with some of these places. If you’re going to make it a requirement that city personnel live in the city, then you need to bump their salaries so they can actually do that.

  25. Tony in HR*


    I would encourage you to keep your age vague (“I graduated with my master’s degree at a young age”) and use it to emphasize traits other than intelligence which would be implied (motivated, hard-working, etc).

    Also, regardless of exact how you word the accomplishment, be VERY careful not to look like you’re bragging. You will look immature, haughty, and many other things that will disqualify you very quickly.

    Good luck!

  26. Cassie*

    Regarding chatty coworkers – thankfully most of the people in my office know that I am quiet/untalkative so they don’t spend time trying to chat me up. Except for one coworker friend – we sometimes go to lunch together or chat, but she sometimes goes on for too long. Or doesn’t notice that I have mounds of paper spread out everywhere and look really busy. In situations like that, I just continue doing my work and she just sits there, staring off into space.

    My biggest problem about chatty or loud coworkers is that they seem to not notice that they might be disturbing someone else. For example, if two people want to talk about something (work-related or not), they should go to one of their offices. They shouldn’t stand by my cubicle just because it’s in the middle of nowhere. Or if someone’s making a phone call on speakerphone – close the door so you don’t bother the cubicle dwellers.

    If people would just be more considerate of others, the world would be a better place…

    1. Jean*

      My favorite quiet/noisy office story puts the joke squarely on me. When my work space moved from an office to a cubicle (seated with my back to the traffic lane and other work areas), I revived my long-dormant ability to block out all auditory stimulation. Whenever a coworker spoke to me or tapped my shoulder I jumped six inches and then had to reassure the person that it wasn’t necessary to apologize for scaring me, because this was my standard reaction whenever my *deep concentration* was interrupted.

  27. Anty*

    Re: 5. Chatty coworkers

    I have seen some people pretend to get and and excuse themselves to use the bathroom in order to end the conversation. I think it works well.

  28. Anni O'Nymous*

    I’m a little late to the party here, but: What do you do when the chatty coworker is the boss?
    I can’t even get a word in edgewise, as in, “Excuse me, I need to use the bathroom.” As far as “I need to get back to work,” I work in a place with tons of downtime, and he knows durned well that there IS no work for me to get back to. I’ve tried asking for additional assignments and was told there are none but they’d “keep it in mind.”
    After a year of this, I’m at my wit’s end and applying for other jobs. I’ve been told that not only does this guy have no business monopolizing my time talking about his personal life, but he’s a bad manager in other ways.
    I give up…

  29. OP #1*

    I actually got two internship offers right after I submitted this question! I only mentioned the age thing in one of the cover letters. I was very careful to phrase the sentence to not come off as bragging, and then to discuss how my research work and (limited) experience would be applicable to the internship.

    I read all of the comments here, and I can definitely understand the different points of view. Thank you everyone for the advice!

Comments are closed.